iranian sweet rice– the highlight of an ambitious dinner.

I know if I were a contestant on “American Chef” or whatever the new scary Gordan Ramsay reality show is, I’d be told that this dinner didn’t match. What was I possibly thinking? Well, I got carried away with a good cookbook. And I wanted to experiment with its different ideas and recipes. Can you blame me?

Cover Image

I have made so many delicious recipes from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East: Vegetarian Cooking that I can’t recommend this cookbook highly enough. (I wrote about this book here and here too.) While I’m a fan of glossy cookbooks filled with beautiful photographs, this cookbook is far more substantive than the average and features quality recipes with sweet anecdotes. Know a vegetarian or want to treat yourself? This is your ticket to lots of delicious and healthy meals.

For dinner tonight, I cooked a feast with dishes from India, China, and Iran. Totally different cuisines, no doubt, and I’m not sure I care that none of it went together. My clothes don’t always match, and I guess my dinners don’t either.

All of the meal’s disparate parts, regardless of how they complemented other dishes, were delicious. Next time I might just stick with one country’s cuisine.

One of the benefits of living with someone (or being in a relationship or having good friends or just being social in general) is that sometimes you cook to please others’ tastes. Christian was flipping through the cookbook and thought the Iranian sweet orange rice sounded delicious. I would never have thought that rice, golden raisins, carrots, orange zest, and sugar were meant to be bedfellows, but Ms. Jaffrey proved me wrong. I love this dish, and I can’t wait to have leftovers tomorrow. It’s one of the most subtle, interesting side dishes I’ve ever made, and I think it’d go wonderfully with orange tempeh or tofu. Yet another reason this cookbook rocks; it pushes me out of my Western centric cooking methods and habits, and it introduces me to new tastes and textures.

What are your favorite cookbooks?

Wishing you a very happy weekend, lovely friends and visitors! Enjoy these dishes (and the lovely flowers from Janna and Dan’s garden that they so sweetly brought me!). lv, molly

Sweet Rice with Orange Rind and Almonds

This sweet pilaf is traditionally served on holidays. But I think it’s so good that you should make it whenever you fancy.

2 C long-grain white rice
2 medium-sized carrots
4 Tbl unsalted butter or oil
Zest from 1 orange
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C slivered, blanched almonds
1/2 tsp leaf saffron (saffron is relatively inexpensive at Trader Joe’s, FYI)
2 Tbl golden raisins
3/4 tsp salt

Rinse the rice several times. Put in a bowl; add 5 cups of water, and leave to soak for 1 hour. Drain and set aside in a sieve set over a bowl.
Peel the carrot, and slice into thin trips. Melt the butter in saute pan, and stir fry the carrots until they’re lightly browned– about 5 minutes. Remove the carrots with a slotted spoon, and leave any remaining butter to set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, combine the zest, sugar, almonds, saffron, and 1/2 C water. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat, and simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add the carrots and raisins. Simmer for another 5 minutes. This mixture should be thick and syrupy. Be careful not to burn it.
Preheat oven to 325 degree. Stir fry the rice in the butter for 4-5 minutes. Add 2 2/3 C water and the salt. Stir gently, and cook until water has almost evaporated. Put in an oven proof pan, and quickly spread the peel mixture over the rice. Cover tightly and place in the oven for 25 minutes.

Spicy Green Beans

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
2 Tbl vegetable or olive oil
1 Tbl black mustard seed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 dried red chile pepper, crushed
1/2 tsp white sugar
ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbl Tamari (or soy sauce)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Blanch the beans. (Boil them for 3 minutes and then put in a bowl of ice cold water to preserve their color.)
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the mustard seed and garlic, and cook until golden brown. Mix in the chile pepper. Place the green beans in the skillet, and season with pepper, red pepper flakes, sugar, and tamari. Cook and stir 8 minutes, or until tender.

Red Lentil Dal with Garlic & Ginger

(Side note: Christian wasn’t as wild about the dal as I was. I love love love dal, but some people prefer curries that have more texture.)

1 cup small red azuki beans (or red lentils– see note)
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 quarter-sized slices of fresh ginger
1 whole dried hot pepper
1 Tbl. lime or lemon juice
3/4 to 1 tsp. salt
1/3 tsp. garam masala
1/3 heavy cream or less (optional)
3 Tbl. ghee or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. finely minced garlic
1/2 tsp. finely minced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper or tandoori masala

*Note: if you use red lentils, this dish cooks much more quickly. Use 2 1/2 cups of water rather than 5, and boil the garlic and ginger with the lentils. With red lentils, this dish takes 40 minutes. Azuki beans have a more complex flavor and are worth a try, but when in a pinch, go for the red lentils to halve the cooking time.

Put the beans and 5 cups of water in a heavy 2 1/2 quart pot, and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low, and simmer for 2 minutes.
Turn off the heat and let the beans sit, uncovered, for 1 hour. Add the whole garlic cloves, slices of ginger, and whole red pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover so the lid is slightly ajar, lower heat, and simmer gently for 1 hour.
Mash the garlic cloves against the sides of the pot. Remove and discard the ginger slices and the whole red pepper.
Take 2 cups of the beans and liquid, and blend in a food processor or blender until smooth. Pour this paste back into the pot with the beans. Make sure the cream is at room temperature before you add it; otherwise it will curdle. Add the lime juice, salt, garam masala, and cream.
Stir and taste. Leave the beans uncovered over a low flame. Heat the ghee in a small skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the minced garlic and ginger. Allow to brown slightly. Add the cayenne, stir once, and pour the ghee-spice mixture over the beans. Cover immediately, and turn the heat off.
Serve with brown rice or other whole grains and a side of steamed or sauteed vegetables.

And what music fueled all of this cooking? None other than Florence & The Machine. This album is incredible, and I may have annoyed anyone who lives in the vicinity by playing it at least four times consecutively. I’d like to be friends with this lady… or at least see her live and dance.

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One thought on “iranian sweet rice– the highlight of an ambitious dinner.

  1. I have heard so many good things about Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbooks I may just have to try them out for myself, finally!
    My faves are Laura Calder’s books, French Food at Home and especially French Taste. I return to them especially in the summer, for great ways with vegetables and cold lunches and dinners. They’re not great for vegetarians, or really for weeknights (almost no one-pot meals) but I love how her pared-down recipes emphasize today’s version of French food, not so much Julia Child (as fab as she is..)

    Also I recently received a copy of The New Basics by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. Some of the writing is kind of amusingly dated (who’d have thought that people would have to be sold on the idea of using fresh herbs?) but most of its recipes have stood the test of time.

    And I’m anxiously awaiting my turn to take Super Natural Every Day from my local library.. :)

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